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Stocks Hold Slight Gains as Utilities Offset Energy Decline

U.S. stocks wavered on Monday afternoon as an earnings drove utilities higher, while crude oil dragged energy lower.

The S&P 500 was up 0.18%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat, and the Nasdaq gained 0.2%.

Southern Co. (SO) led the utilities sector higher after besting quarterly estimates in its third quarter. The electricity company earned $1.28 a share over its recent quarter, 11 cents higher than expected. Revenue rose 16% to $6.26 billion, besting forecasts by $280 million. The stock rose 2.3%

Industry peers such as NextEra Energy (NEE) , Duke Energy (DUK) , Dominion Resources (D) and American Electric Power (AEP) moved higher, while the Utilities SPDR ETF (XLE) climbed 2%.

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Crude oil prices fell on Monday morning as major oil producers failed to reach an agreement to freeze production. Producers outside of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, in particular, made no moves to join an OPEC deal to limit output. OPEC and non-OPEC members met in Vienna on Saturday and agreed to meet again in November.

"While not a surprise after OPEC producers were still divided after Friday discussions, the lack of specific progress is undercutting market confidence that a deal will be reached in time for OPEC's full summit Nov. 30 in Vienna," said Tim Evans, energy futures analyst at Citi.

West Texas Intermediate crude was down 2.7% to $47.41 a barrel on Monday.

The energy sector was the weakest performer on Monday. Major oil producers including Exxon Mobil (XOM) , Halliburton (HAL) , Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) and Total (TOT) moved lower, while the Energy...